When you watch chef Aarón Sánchez at work, you might see him grill lobster, pickle grapes or stuff poblano peppers with all kinds of glorious ingredients. But one thing you’ll never see this award-winning Latin chef do: put an avocado anywhere near an oven.
“The magic of avocado is that it should be eaten fresh,” the MasterChef judge tells Taste of Home. And that’s no secret. Anyone who’s watched him at a tasting knows: If a contestant presents the panel with a baked (or roasted, or sauteed) avocado, they’d better be ready for a raised eyebrow from Chef Aarón.
“I’m more of a purist,” he says of the fruit—yep, fruit—that has been eaten by the people of Latin America for thousands of years.
The longer an avocado is exposed to heat, the more quickly it loses the cool, creamy texture people love. Instead, it becomes mushy, brown and incredibly unappealing.
How should you prepare an avocado?
“I love simply taking an avocado, scooping out the flesh and serving a crab salad over it,” says Chef Aarón, who’s also chef/owner of Johnny Sánchez in New Orleans. (We think fresh avocado is pretty awesome in this Acapulco-inspired shrimp salad, too.)
But serving avocado raw isn’t your only option, he adds. You can grill it lightly, like we do for this smoky guacamole.
“And I’ve seen some chefs tempura fry it,” Chef Aarón says. Coat avocado in panko bread crumbs or batter and drop it in hot oil. In a flash, you’ll have a crispy outside and a rich interior. It’s great with a creamy dipping sauce.
If you’re going to take it to heat, he says, make sure to choose an avocado that’s slightly underripe. (Here’s how to tell if an avocado is ripe.)
One of the chef’s all-time favorite way to eat avocados? On fish tacos—and he shared the recipe with us.
Aarón Sánchez’s Grilled Fish Tacos with Tequila-Lime Crema
“This dish should be served family style—everyone will want to build their own tacos,” he writes on his blog, in a post sponsored by Cacique, maker of Hispanic cheeses, chorizos and cremas. Bonus: You can make the crema up to a day ahead!
For the adobo rub:
- 4 Tbsp. chili powder
- 2 Tbsp. lime juice
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. fresh ground black pepper
- 2 lbs. mahi mahi fillets, skin removed (halibut works, too)
For the crema:
- 1 cup Cacique Crema Mexicana Agria sour cream (find it here)
- 1 lime, juiced
- ¼ cup premium silver tequila
- 1 Tsp. sugar
- ½ Tsp. salt
- ¼ Tsp. fresh ground black pepper
For the toppings:
- 1 package (10 oz.) Cacique Queso Fresco, crumbled (find it here)
- 2 cups cabbage, finely shredded
- 1 cup onion, diced
- 4 limes, quartered
- ½ bunch cilantro, finely chopped
- Pico de gallo salsa
- 1 diced avocado (squirt a little lime juice to prevent browning—here are three more ways)
- 12 corn tortillas, warmed
1. Combine all rub ingredients in a bowl and mix until well combined.
2. Gently rinse and pat dry the fish fillets with paper towel. Apply the rub liberally over the fish fillets, on both sides. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes.
3. Combine all the crema ingredients in a blender and pulse until it becomes a smooth, thick consistency. Cover and store in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. This can be done up to 24 hours in advance.
4. Place the queso fresco, cabbage, onion, lime wedges, cilantro, avocado and pico de gallo, all side by side, on a large serving platter. Bring out the Tequila-Lime Crema and place in a bowl along with the toppings.
5. When ready to serve, grill the fish fillets on a hot, well-oiled grill for 3-5 minutes per side, or until cooked through.
6. While grilling the fish, heat the tortillas. Serve the fish in a serving platter and the warm tortillas in a bread basket, and welcome everyone to enjoy!